October 26, 2011


Japan stops beef imports from a US meat factory



Japan stopped beef imports from a US packing plant after finding meat that could not be verified to abide by its restrictions, officials said on Tuesday (Oct 25).


The officials said this was the 15th violation by US beef suppliers in five years.


The number of cases of violations has declined compared with that in the first few years after July 2006, when Japan resumed US imports after a temporary halt due to concerns over the risk of mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).


Currently, Japan allows US beef from cows aged 20 months or younger and was reported earlier this month to be considering relaxing the restrictions, allowing beef from cattle that were 30 months or younger.


The inclusion of beef without proper documents in a cargo checked on October 17, however, resulted in Japan's halting of beef imports from a factory of Tyson Fresh Meats in Hillsdale, Illinois, until it receives detailed reports on investigations by US authorities, the officials said.


They said US authorities had reported they could not confirm the beef in the shipment was from cattle aged 20 months or less.


Tyson officials could not comment immediately on the Japanese move.


"It is regrettable to make this announcement," an official from Japan's health ministry said. It is the first violation case this fiscal year which started in April 2011, and there was only one case in 2010/11, the official said.


"We're scheduled to ask the views of our panel of experts about the risk of BSE at home and abroad on Oct. 31, with the latest facts and findings provided," he added.


The meeting is widely expected to pave the way for the country's independent Food Safety Commission to make the first assessment in five years on the risks from the disease, a necessary step for the Japanese government to decide whether to relax the rules on imports of US beef.


US-Japan bilateral talks on deregulating the restrictions had been deadlocked since mid-2007, when the last face-to-face negotiations were held, but resumed in September last year when a working-level meeting was held in San Francisco.

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